Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says delivering lower wireless prices for Canadians is his priority in weighing final approvals for the proposed merger between Rogers Communications Inc. and Shaw Communications Inc.
“My role is to protect public interest,” he told reporters on his way into a Liberal cabinet meeting in Ottawa on Tuesday.
“I’ll be rendering a decision in due course and certainly making sure that whatever decision is in the best interests of Canadians and that the decision will help to bring down prices here in Canada.”
His comments come on Jan. 31 — the previous deadline for the blockbuster $26-billion deal to close.
But the companies extended that deadline Monday to Feb. 17 as they await Champagne’s decision.
The current version of the deal, which was first announced in March 2021 but has evolved significantly in response to antitrust concerns, would now see Quebecor’s Videotron acquire Shaw’s Freedom Mobile wireless division and all associated spectrum licences from the company.
Read more: Rogers-Shaw deal clears major hurdle after Competition Tribunal rules in favour
This move, which would expand Videotron’s presence into Western Canada as Rogers and Shaw merge to become Canada’s No. 2 telecom provider, would promote competition in the wireless industry rather than diminish it, advocates argue.
Others, including the Competition Bureau, have argued that the move would increase concentration and hurt Canadian consumers in the long run.
The Competition Tribunal signed off on the proposed merger on Dec. 30, 2022 and a week ago the Federal Court of Appeal shot down the bureau’s application to get the decision overturned. Champagne said Tuesday he was still reviewing the federal court’s decision.
The minister also suggested that a growing national role for Videotron was imperative for the deal going forward. He reiterated previous conditions that he had placed on the deal, including that there would be “no flipping” of the spectrum licences and that Videotron would have to expand the low prices offered in the Quebec market to Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
“We have long held in Canada that we want to have better prices, more competition, and the best way to achieve that is to have a fourth national player,” Champagne said.
“All that is to say to Canadians who are watching, I have your back. I’m looking at what we can do to have better prices in Canada.”